Lo­cal church part­ners with non­profit to cre­ate vet­er­ans memo­rial

New Hope and VCon­nec­tions bring com­mu­nity to­gether through ini­tia­tive

Maryland Independent - - Front Page - By CHAR­LIE WRIGHT cwright@somd­news.com

New Hope Church of God in Wal­dorf is ac­cept­ing sub­mis­sions for the Com­mu­nity Vet­er­ans Memo­rial, a mon­u­ment dis­played in front of the church hon­or­ing Charles County ser­vice mem­bers and their fam­i­lies.

There will be a ded­i­ca­tion for the memo­rial on Sept. 10, with sev­eral lo­cal fig­ures ex­pected to be in at­ten­dance in­clud­ing Charles County Board of Com­mis­sion­ers’ Pres­i­dent

Pe­ter Mur­phy (D) and Charles County Sher­iff Troy Berry (D).

The 5-foot-tall, ob­sid­ian-col­ored struc­ture has a mes­sage hon­or­ing sol­diers on its face and a note to fam­i­lies of troops on its rear. The mon­u­ment sits above hun­dreds of bricks laid in the pat­tern of a cross, which can be pur­chased and then printed with the name of a de­ceased loved one. An Amer­i­can flag flies over­head, and spot­lights are po­si­tioned at the base of the site to il­lu­mi­nate the memo­rial af­ter dusk.

“We wanted to bridge the mil­i­tary and the com­mu­nity to­gether,” said the Rev. Aaron Jones of New Hope. “In this area, there’s not too much you have to memo­ri­al­ize a mem­ber of your fam­ily.”

Jones served in the U.S. Army for 20 years as a chap­lain, in­clud­ing on the front lines in Iraq. He said there are at least 40 to 50 vet­er­ans in his con­gre­ga­tion.

The church part­nered with lo­cal non­profit VConnnec­tions to de­sign and build the memo­rial. The South­ern Mary­land or­ga­ni­za­tion works to pro­vide re­sources for vet­er­ans and their fam­i­lies, mak­ing it an ideal col­lab­o­ra­tor for the project. VCon­nec­tions founder and CEO Bill Buff­in­g­ton took the lead on the project, work­ing with Jones to bring it to fruition.

“It’s some­thing we thought was needed in Charles County,” Buff­in­g­ton said. “I know the Amer­i­can Le­gion has a memo­rial, but for a faith-based or­ga­ni­za­tion to ac­tu­ally step up to the plate ... it’s a big step.”

Bricks cost $125 and those in­ter­ested can con­tact the church for de­tails. Par­tic­i­pants are given a sheet of pa­per to write their mes­sage, and up to three lines for text. Jones said many peo­ple list years of ser­vice or which con­flicts the per­son fought in un­der the names of the de­ceased.

Buff­in­g­ton and Jones both stressed that while the memo­rial is lo­cated at the church, par­tic­i­pants do not need to have any af­fil­i­a­tion to the church or di­rectly to mil­i­tary ser­vice. The bricks near­est the mon­u­ment are for vet­er­ans or those with mil­i­tary ties, but there is also an area at the bot­tom por­tion of the cross sim­ply for de­ceased fam­ily mem­bers. New Hope and VCon­nec­tions want to cre­ate a place to honor those in the com­mu­nity re­gard­less of mil­i­tary his­tory, even though rec­og­niz­ing vet­er­ans is the pri­mar y pur­pose.

“I want this to be known as the Charles County memo­rial,” Jones said.

STAFF PHOTO BY CHAR­LIE WRIGHT

The front of the Com­mu­nity Vet­er­ans Memo­rial at New Hope Church of God shows a salut­ing sol­dier and a mes­sage to fallen troops.

STAFF PHOTO BY CHAR­LIE WRIGHT

The back side of the Com­mu­nity Vet­er­ans Memo­rial at New Hope Church of God of­fers thanks to fam­ily mem­bers of sol­diers.

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